Congratulations! You decided to move to Dubai from the USA. First of all, excellent choice! Dubai is a blend of cultures, activities, and an architectural marvel that attracts people from all over the world to come and reside in its world-renowned landscapes. According to Preply, Dubai is the 4th best country in the world for expats.
The reality of finding a job, processing visas as well as finding a place to stay, looking into the healthcare system, and securing health insurance can be a lot to handle and overwhelming.
But lucky for you, this Pacific Prime Dubai guide covers everything you need to know about moving to Dubai.
Did you know that about 40,000 people from the US live in Dubai, with Americans being the largest expat group in the country? Most US citizens in the UAE are located in Dubai, with only 10,000 others residing in Abu Dhabi and other cities. That being said, moving to a new city can be exciting, with careful and meticulous planning.
Cost of living in Dubai
Securing a job, visa, and work permit
Finding the right place to live
Transport and commute
Education in UAE for kids
American Women Living in Dubai
Expat Communities in Dubai
Healthcare and health insurance in Dubai
The good news is that you don't have to pay taxes in Dubai! While the cost of living in Dubai may be high, they are not as expensive as New York or LA. According to Mercer’s Cost of Living City Ranking 2022, Dubai is ranked number 31. Note that the government of UAE keeps the costs in check by constantly updating regulations to help decrease the overall cost of living in order to attract top international talent.
Further reading: What is the cost of living in Dubai for expats in 2022?
Like any other nation, you will need a valid visa to work in Dubai. And if you are employed by a Dubai company it is easy to obtain a work visa. The country offers jobs in various industries, moreover some growth industries, such as the energy sector, healthcare, and life sciences are facing labor shortages at the moment.
It’s advisable to secure a job before you move, especially when you are moving with family. Most American expats land a job in Dubai with international companies that have operations in the Gulf. In such situations, the companies take care of visas/work permits as well as offer a relocation package. However, if you do not work for an international company and still want to move to Dubai, you can explore other visas and entry visas such as Dubai’s Virtual Working Program.
Further reading: The UAE announces new residence visa rules for 2022
You might want to have your stay in Dubai sorted out before your move. Note that, in the UAE it is illegal to live with a member of the opposite sex if they are not your spouse, family, or relative. So, if you are planning to move with your partner, watch out for this rule.
Housing costs largely depend on where you choose to live. For instance, an apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre costs about AED 5,142, and an apartment (3 bedrooms) outside the center is approximately AED 6,793. If you are moving with your family, then it's essential to find a family-friendly place. You could explore housing where there are social opportunities with other expat families, and that is close to international schools and work. Ranging from the Arabian Ranches to Dubai Marina, you will find a place that meets all your requirements.
Further reading: The best places to live in Dubai for families
Getting around the city is fairly easy for American expats in Dubai. And guess what? You don’t have to worry about driving because you drive on the same side of the road as the USA. Dubai also has an affordable and efficient public transport system including metros, buses, and taxis. Ride-hailing apps such as Uber, Careem, and Hala are popular among expats to book cabs from one place to another.
Dubai has world-class international educational institutions to choose from. The schools provide quality education and state-of-the-art facilities. In addition, Dubai’s top schools offer an American curriculum so you don’t have to worry about your kids getting acquainted with a new syllabus or a local curriculum. You can learn more about the best schools that offer an American curriculum on Edarabia.
Dubai’s international schools also offer ‘rolling admissions’ - meaning that your child can apply and join at any time of the year. The only drawback about the international schools in Dubai is that the number of admissions is limited and can be quite expensive. So, it's a good idea to apply early and budget accordingly to avoid any hindrances.
Further reading: Your guide to schooling options in Dubai
The city’s customs are different and fairly conservative compared to the USA. So, if you are an American woman moving to Dubai, it’s a good idea to dress modestly - wear clothing that covers shoulders, thighs and midriff in public areas.
As an American woman in Dubai, if you want to sponsor your family and bring them to the UAE, then you need to earn a minimum salary of AED 10,000 monthly (AED 4000 for men).
The city’s metro also features a women-and-childern-only carriage, and government buildings have queues dedicated for women.
Dubai has a massive American expat community and you could become part of this community to meet new people and make local American friends. By doing so, you are not only building a social circle but also helping yourself if you feel homesick.
If you are working in an international company or if your kids are going to international schools, then you will automatically meet people from the US and other parts of the world. And if this is not an option for you, then you could join social clubs and apps to make American expat friends, here are some options for you to explore:
With excellent hospitals and clinics, Dubai’s healthcare system is one of the best in the world. As an American expat, if you are wondering about the language of communication, you would be glad to know that most doctors and health care specialists speak English. Let’s take a deeper look into Dubai’s healthcare and health insurance system.
The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) supervises the public and private healthcare sectors in the country, and the healthcare sector is regulated at federal and emirate levels. It administers the four major public hospitals, namely, Dubai, Rashid, Latifa, and Hatta. However, expats in Dubai are drawn towards private healthcare institutions - there are over 130 private healthcare facilities offering short wait times, specialist care, and top-notch facilities.
Yes, expats can get access to public healthcare in Dubai. However, you will need a health card, which you can get from the DHA online or by visiting a medical center. Here is a list of information and documents you will need for applying:
Employers usually organize health insurance as part of their employee benefits program for those American expats who move to Dubai with a job. However, others have to secure international private medical insurance themselves. Note that, it is now law for all Dubai residents to have health insurance, and companies must provide their employees with a medical insurance plan that offers at least basic cover but are not required to cover the cost of medical insurance for their families. Hence, expats with families may need to secure insurance for dependents and any other domestic workers such as nannies, maids, cooks, etc.
The EBP is the basic health insurance coverage residents of Dubai are required to meet under the law. Note that the EBP is for residents who earn less than AED 4000 per month, including dependents without a job. And those who earn more than AED 4000 are not eligible to get the EBP but as a minimum, their medical insurance will meet the standards (as per the EBP guidelines). Now, if you are wondering about the cost of EBP, the fixed cost is between AED 550 and AED 650 per year.
Plan ahead of time, starting health insurance at a young age has a lot of benefits in Dubai.
Explore your options - don’t fall for the cheaper policies, instead look for the kind of coverage that meets your requirements.
Basic hospital cover is a must - if specialized health insurance is out of your budget, ask your insurance provider for hospital cover.
Opt for a top-up cover so that you can get coverage for hospitalization costs but only after a threshold limit.
The best way to save some money on health insurance is by using the plan that is provided by your employer and in most cases, group health insurance plans also cover the dependents of employees.
Whether you are looking for individual health insurance or family insurance, it can get challenging to figure it out by yourself. One way you can focus on settling in a new city and outsource the job of finding the right insurance plan is by assigning the tedious task to Pacific Prime.
Pacific Prime has over 20 years of experience in the insurance industry and maintains a robust global presence. Pacific Prime’s insurance experts know the health insurance requirements for expats in UAE, and will be able to help you navigate through the process with ease.